Africa has warned as the number of patients soars

Diabetes could become one of the leading causes of death in Africa by 2030 if urgent interventions are not taken.

This has been revealed by the World Health Organization (WHO), with data indicating that the number of adults currently living with diabetes in Africa will increase by 129% by 2045.

Diabetes on the rise

WHO statistics for 2022 revealed that there are 24 million diabetic adults on the continent, but this number could increase to 55 million.

Last year alone, 416 000 people died of diabetes mellitus in Africa, with undiagnosed diabetes on the continent at 53.6%.

A new UK study found that women with type 2 diabetes could live up to five years less than the average woman and were 60% more likely to die prematurely.

In South Africa, about 4.6 million people have diabetes, with half undiagnosed. Around 95% of these cases are due to overweight or obesity.

ALSO READ: South Africa has the highest diabetes rates in Africa

Diabetes is the only major non-communicable disease where the risk of dying is increasing, rather than decreasing.

And according to health expert Vanessa Ascencao, at least 80% of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

But education could shed significant light on potential diabetes cases and help control the statistics.

That’s why the theme of World Diabetes Day 2022 is centered around education, to protect current and future generations.

Knowing the symptoms, performing tests and early diagnoses, as well as the management and treatment of diabetes, are life-saving actions that can be carried out if those affected receive as much information as possible about it.

This was underlined by Roche Diabetes Care through its slogan to commemorate World Diabetes Day, entitled “Education to protect tomorrow”.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way your body converts food into energy.

Normally, most of the food you eat is converted to sugar (glucose) and carried into your bloodstream.

When blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas is signaled to release insulin, which in turn allows the blood sugar in your body’s cells to be used for energy.

Diabetics are unable to produce enough insulin, resulting in too much glucose in the bloodstream.

Over time, this can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, kidney failure, amputation of lower limbs, and nerve damage. The symptoms of Covid-19 can also be aggravated by diabetes.

Types of diabetes

Diabetes comes in two forms: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset diabetes. It is an autoimmune disease in which patients require daily insulin administration, due to deficient insulin production.

This type of diabetes usually has more severe symptoms and is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. However, it can happen at any age.

Type 2 diabetes, also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is caused by a person’s ineffective use of insulin. This is the most common form of diabetes, as more than 95% of people suffer from this type.

It can develop over several years and is the result of a combination of risk factors. Some of these include age, being overweight, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure.

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Symptoms of diabetes

The following symptoms may be an indication of type 1 or type 2 diabetes and should prompt a visit to your doctor:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Ketones detected in urine. Ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that occurs when not enough insulin is available.
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Having more infections.

Managing diabetes

No matter how severe diabetes is, it can be easily managed through self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG), says Roche.

This involves a person with diabetes measuring their blood sugar using a blood glucose meter and can play a key role in managing their disease. It can give information on how to help patients modify their lifestyle and can help check the effectiveness of their treatment regimen.

It is important for diabetics to perform SMBG regularly and record blood glucose levels. The ideal time is immediately after waking up in the morning and two hours after lunch. Consult with your health care professional to find the ideal time.

The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise spread over a few days.

Calories must be controlled and diets well thought out. Consuming complex carbohydrates and healthy fats should always outweigh simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Diabetics need to count the calories they consume and know where they come from regularly.

People with diabetes should also visit their doctor regularly, even if their blood sugar levels are under control.

Regular eye tests and kidney and liver exams can help detect comorbidities associated with diabetes, providing medical intervention before it’s too late.

Compiled by Nica Richards.

READ ALSO: More than 50% of adults do not know they have diabetes

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